The A u to biography of William Farrell of Carlow. Edited by Roger J. McHugh. (Browne & Nolan. 12s. 6d.)
Reviewed by THE EARL OF WICKLOW
OF recent years there has been an increased interest in the publication of old diaries and journals, especially those which were written in the " spacious days " of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This journal, which is one of these, and an excellent example of the type, has been carefully edited, with an interesting introduction, by Dr. Roger McHugh, who is on the staff of University
College. Dublin. William Farrell wrote his account of what happened in Carlow during the '98 rebellion between the years 1832 and 1845, when he was an old man employed as gate-keeper of a public institution in that town.
As Dr, McHugh explains: "His manuscript consists of 187 parchment pages hound roughly between tattered leather covers. The handwriting is fairly close but distinct and the manuscript is in excellent condition. Farrell's express wish was that it should not be published until after his death."
The frontispiece of this book gives a reproduction of a page of this manuscript, and personally I should say that the handwriting is of a very high standard, especially when compared with the illegible scrawls which nowadays one is expected to decipher as one opens one's daily post.
VARRELL has a vivid style of • writing. and one is given a most
convincing picture of life in an Irish provincial town in the late eighteenth century; on the whole a happy picture, though schooldays may perhaps have been a little disconcerting at the hands of the Protestant gentleman who had served in the Army, and at whose school "everything was to be done by the way of no thanks and by the force of the switch or the cat-o'-ninetails." But life seems to have been carefree enough, at that time when, though Catholic Emancipation had not yet been won, Ireland was gradually emerging from the catacombs of the penal days. The author tells of the traditional Mayday celebrations, and " all the manly athletic exercises so well known to Irishmen as hurling, football, cudgelling. tennis or handball, leaping, wrestling, vaulting, throwing the sledge or bar or grinding-stone." There was sunshine on the landscape, until, to use the author's own words, that dreadful curse of Ireland, the system of ' United Irishmen ' was introduced."
PROM then a great gloom comes ▪ over the scene, with gallant
folly on one side, a folly so naive that it was at the mercy of every spy and informer, and on the other a system of repression which was as underhand and unjust as it was bestially cruel. The tale. the interest of which never flags, is a terrible one. but bears all the marks of authenticity; in the case of Carlow the actions of the British authorities were all the more vile, in that the misbegotten rising never really took place; the whole affair was both abortive and amateurish, and no British blood was spilt. It is significant that only a few pages of this journal are devoted to the actual Carlow rising, for the whole sad business was still-born.
But though the poor misguided rebels were harmless enough, not so was the vengeance enacted on them, with the floggings. often till the victins was almost dead, when he would usually be finished off by hanging, unless he had the misfortune to be reserved for further torture the next day, the half-hangings as an alternative form of torment, the unjust executions (and all too many of them) without legal trial, and more horrible still, for those who showed signs of temper, the foul torture of the pitch-cap, than which neither Nazi or Communist has devised worse. With his usual graphic vigour Farrell tells how " the pitchcap was stuck on, and after being let to cement a little, was set fire to and the insolent wearer allowed to roar and tear it off as well as he could to the great amusement and delight of the spectators."
No, their way of dealing with this rising reflects little credit on the British administration in Ireland, though it must also be owned that this account, by a man who had himself been one of the "United Irishmen," shows up those who brought about the rising in no favourable light. It is worth noting, in this regard, that whereas several priests took part in the Wicklow rising. among them the heroic Father Murphy, the Catholic clergy in Carlow seem to have tried hard to hold their people back. There is a touching account of the parish priest of Tynryland, who "came out of his house, stopped them on the road and begged of them, in the most moving terms, to desist. He even went on his knees and used every entreaty he could think of to prevail on them to go back, but all was useless."
THE writer of this review is one of A those who hope for far more friendly relations between Britain and Ireland, but with this end in view the British on their side should understand that the memory of the Gael is a long one, and should know what it is that he remembers, especially at this time when the Catholic Irish of the Six Counties are living under a tyranny which,
while not brutal as in 1798, is nevertheless unjust, sectarian and odious. On the other hand those fanatical, thoughtless men (fortunately they are few in number) who, both in and out of the Dail, are advocating violence to end the border question, should read this book and realise that the man who encourages civil war is a traitor to his country's best interests. In giving this journal to the public Dr. McHugh has made a very valuable contribution to Irish history.
A reissue of The Nine First Fridays (O'Connell, B.O., 5s.) reminds us that the "Great Promise" must be understood " in the spirit in which (it) was made," and practised, not " in isolation," but with "simplicity and clearness." The history and dogma of this great devotion are soberly presented by an ordered and cultured mind.
Both the student of Church history and the layman have reason to welcome The Origins of the Great Schism, For here within the compass of 250 pages is a straightforward historical account of thc events of the year 1378, of such illomen in the history of the Church. Enriched by the latest historical findings, but shorn of discussion of the purely legal technicalities, is the story of the election of Urban VI and the subsequent events, upon which there is an unconscionable amount of documentary and contradictory evidence, reduced so as to be readable as a story. How well the author, Walter Ullmann, succeeds in a delicate task can he judged by the fact that the reading of this unhappy story strengthens one's faith in the Church and edifies in the exact sense of the term (Burns Oates, 18s.).